Long thought to be a problem only in America’s poorest cities or the world’s most impoverished nations, human trafficking is now making a move toward the upper fringes of society.During a speech Thursday at the University of Mississippi School of Law, federal prosecutors said sex trafficking, both in terms of victims and suspects, has spread to wealthy suburbs as well as small rural towns, The Commercial Appeal reported.
“We have an 18-year-old white trafficker who didn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds, but she was beating the crap out of the victims and threatening to kill them,” assistant U.S. attorney in Memphis Jonathan Skrmetti told students.
Between 2008 and 2010, 2,515 alleged incidents of human trafficking were reported in the U.S., 82 per cent of which involved claims of sex trafficking, according to Northeastern University.
A study from Shared Hope International released in December 2011 found that most states aren’t doing enough to save their residents from sex trafficking.
“I was absolutely shocked when we started sending people into states [posing] as sex tourists, and they would go in, and they would come into the city maybe from another country, maybe from another state, and they could buy kids so easily,” Shared Hope International founder former Rep. Linda Smith told NPR.
Globally, prostitution is a much larger problem. Of the 40 to 42 million prostitutes in the world, about 1 million live in the U.S.
While that data did not note which trafficking incidents were tied to wealthy suburbs, there is other anecdotal evidence that the problem is reaching affluent communities.
The nonprofit Georgia Family Council says much of the demand for human trafficking in the state comes from the wealthy suburbs of Atlanta.
Earlier this week President Barack Obama condemned the “outrage of human trafficking” and pledged to increase assistance for anti-trafficking training.
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